A rare but deadly cougar attack has taken the life of a member of Seattle’s LGBTQ community. Activist SJ Brooks, 33, was an avid biker and a founder of the Seattle chapter of the group Friends on Bikes as well as an advocate for creating a safe and welcoming community for women, transgender and non-binary people of color to enjoy the world of biking.
Brooks, who used they/them pronouns, was with friend Isaac Sederbaum, 31, who also goes by Izzy and uses he/him pronouns, who was injured in the attack. Sederbaum has been upgraded to satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center where he remains under observation due to the danger from infections from wild animal bites.
The pair were cycling through a remote area near North Bend, Washington when the 100 lb animal began pursuing them. They followed established protocols for scaring off the animal but it attacked Sederbaum who managed to break free and fled on his bicycle to a point where he could use his cell phone to call 911. The animal then turned on Brooks, who ran into the woods where they were attacked.
The attack is the first recorded cougar fatality in Washington State since 1924.
“The fact that it stayed in close proximity with these folks and attacked, and stayed with them is highly, highly unusual,” said Capt. Alan Myers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The animal was killed and is being studied for signs of what would have led to the unusual attack. Adult male cougars typically weigh over 120 lbs so the fact the animal was apparently underweight raises concerns it may have been seriously ill.
S.J. Brooks was also the manager at the Hillman City Collaboratory, a community meeting place/resource center where many LGBTQ events have been held. The space was created in 2013/14 by Valley & Mountain Fellowship at 5623 Rainier Avenue South.